Boris Johnson is expected to unveil a wave of new coronavirus restrictions today – but the plans have already provoked anger from the hospitality sector and have been called “another crushing blow” for businesses.
One of the measures the Prime Minister is set to announce is 10pm curfew on pubs and restaurants from Thursday but the sector has warned of disastrous consequences for the economy.
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, said: “A hard close time is bad for business and bad for controlling the virus – we need to allow time for people to disperse over a longer period,” she said.
“It is hard to understand how these measures are the solution to fighting the disease when Government data shows that just 5 per cent of infections out of the home are related to hospitality.”
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said the new rules would “feel like a step backwards”, and urged the Government to fix the track and trace system and help the hospitality sector.
He said: “The Prime Minister must also financially help pubs and restaurants who will inevitably lose business. After people have already been through so much hardship, we cannot allow thousands of jobs to disappear overnight.”
Follow the latest updates below.
South Korea suspends free flue shot programme
South Korea suspended free flu shots on Tuesday after reports of problems in storing the vaccinations during transportation, disrupting plans to pre-emptively ease the burden on a healthcare system already strained by coronavirus outbreaks.
The country, which has seen a spike in Covid-19 cases since August, planned to procure 20 per cent more flu vaccines for the winter than the previous year to jab 30 million people. It had planned to start free inoculation on Tuesday for some 19 million eligible people.
The head of South Korea’s disease prevention agency said on Tuesday that some doses of the vaccine, which need to be refrigerated, had been exposed to room temperature while being transported to a medical facility.
It was not immediately known how many doses were affected, and authorities are looking into the entire batch of five million doses that were scheduled for distribution on Tuesday.
Cases in Australia’s hotspot double, elsewhere restrictions to be eased
Australia’s virus hotspot of Victoria on Tuesday reported a more than doubling in new infections likely as a result of increased testing, while states elsewhere in the country said border restrictions would be relaxed as case numbers dwindled.
Officials said the northeastern state of Queensland would open its borders to parts of neighbouring New South Wales amid growing confidence that Australia’s second wave of infections has been contained.
NSW has maintained new daily infections in the single-digits since Sept. 11, reporting only two cases in the past 24 hours, both of which were overseas travellers already in quarantine.
Queensland had no new cases and South Australia has not reported a new case in close to two weeks.
Mexico’s confirmed cases nears 700,000
Mexico closed in on a total of 700,000 confirmed cases on Monday, though authorities acknowledge the true number of infections in the country ranked No. 6 in Covid-19 cases globally is higher.
Mexico has the fourth highest number of deaths attributed to the pandemic.
On Sunday, the health ministry reported 3,542 new confirmed cases, bringing the total to 697,663 as well as a cumulative death toll of 73,493.
Pub curfew scheme ‘from random policy generator’
The Prime Minister is this evening set to tell the British people that there will be a 10pm curfew in pubs from Thursday evening.
Boris Johnson is announcing new measures because the UK’s coronavirus cases are surging.
But the Institute of Economic Affairs think tank said the plans would be “devastating to the hospitality sector”. Christopher Snowdon, the IEA’s head of lifestyle economics, said: “A 10pm closing time for all pubs, bars and other hospitality seems to have emerged from a random policy generator.
“While mandatory table service has been part of the successful Swedish approach and may have merit, the new closing time will be devastating to a hospitality sector that was already suffering after the first lockdown.
“The Government should publish the evidence upon which this decision was based.”
Daily tests ‘may not be available on the NHS’
Daily tests for Covid-19 which would allow people to get their lives back to normal would not be available on the NHS, the Government’s head of testing has said.
Dido Harding, who runs the NHS’s much-criticised test and trace system, suggested in comments reported by the i newspaper that companies and individuals could be forced to pay for rapid turnaround coronavirus tests as the “cost of doing business” when they become available.
Baroness Harding said those without symptoms might choose to foot the bill for self-administered tests to act as a kind of Covid-19 passport to allow them to take part in non-socially distanced activities
Earlier this month, it emerged the Government is considering shelling out as much as £100 billion on a programme dubbed “Operation Moonshot” to deliver up to 10 million tests every day.
‘Johnson must show he has a plan’
Boris Johnson is expected to announce a plan today to get Britain’s surging coronavirus infections under control. But Julia Hartley-Brewer says No 10’s messages have been confusing and alarming:
It’s easy to criticise the Government’s chaotic communications but hiring the best PR agency in the business could not solve this problem. That’s because the real crisis is not in the presentation of their strategy, it’s the total absence of any strategy at all.
The Government’s plan to tackle coronavirus appears to be little more than “we must be seen to do something”. Even if that “something” is not merely useless but is even worse than doing nothing.